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Thrill Jockey Records: P.O.Box 476794, Chicago, IL 60647-6794

by AjD

Buy Millions Now Living Will Never Die

Hey, babe, I'm in a bad mood.

Been knocked around a bit too much lately.

Had my share of beat-downs.

I mean, really. Who the hell would think it was sensible to put curbings in a bike path? Do they think we ride ATVs to work? Some silly-billy is going to get his head stove in on those sorts of cost shavings. Good thing I only fucked up one arm.

Last thing I wanna hear when I arrive at work is news that I've got a whole new project to get done by tomorrow or so. Been taking a vacation from real life for long enough with this sort of stuff, know what I mean?

So I head to my cubicle, and the person a couple cells down is havin' some raucous conversation 'bout whatever. Sounds like fun, though. Which I ain't having.

And music reviewers, as Cyndi Lauper should've put it, can use some fun. Or at least some freakin' P and Q, at least of the sort you can't get at the ol' apartment complex homestead 'cause the neighbors are going at it like cats and dogs and the cats are going at it like cats do on moonlit nights and the dogs are howling accompaniment and the guy next door decides to drown it all out by blowing his psychotherapy tapes at stadium volume.

So if you can't get a moment's peace, what are you gonna do? Play some trip-hop dancebeat stuff that makes you wanna gaze at your shoes and shuffle around or wave your hands in the air like you're drowning in smoke? At the office, man, people have been fired for less. And don't mention whale songs to me. Don't even think about mentioning it. I can read your brainwaves, man.

There's only one thing to do. Right. Spin up Mr. Portable CD Player with "Millions Now Living Will Never Die" by Tortoise. The beauty of echolocation and the tension of the real ocean feed right into your ears a precisely-timed signal of unfathomable otherspace, where the worlds spin rightly and there are no telephone calls to harsh your mellow.

Tortoise breaks ahead of the pack by not giving a freaking flip about beats per minute. They count time the organic way -- with a real drummer in a real room. When they bother to use percussion at all. They also found the right middle ground between the lost-control high concept aimless noodling of progressive rockinroll and the lost-in-white-light aimless noodling of new-age whatever music. It's close enough to reality to engage you, far-out enough to keep you wondering.

This stuff's oceanic in scope. Did I say that? It ranges from far away echoey corridor sounding stuff that you might want to hear if you were underwater to Morricone-like guitar meditations on late nights of old.

The guys in the band aren't slouches, either, picked up from some of Chicago's finest ensembles, such as Slint and Eleventh Dream Day. When they wander, they wander with purpose.

Using instrumentation as diverse as white-noise static, marimbas, glass jars, guitars, tape loops and cheesy old electric organs, along with yer usual complement of guitar, bass, and hardly any drums, Tortoise makes music relaxing without being complacent or ingratiating. I'd feel even better about listening to this disk over and over if I could blow it on a REAL STEREO in a dark room and no worries. But hey. The neighbor's gonna retaliate if I do. He should get earplugs like I've got.

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